Tendons are strong bands or cords of tissue that attach muscle to bone. They help move the bones and joints when muscles contract.
The main types of tendon injury are:
Tendon injuries usually happen during sports or activities that involve sudden, sharp movements, such as throwing or jumping, or after repeated overuse of the tendons, such as running.
They can also be caused by repetitive daily activities, such as regularly using a computer keyboard and mouse. This is known as a repetitive strain injury (RSI).
Tendon injuries can affect many different parts of the body. Commonly affected areas include the shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, fingers and backs of the heels.
Symptoms of a tendon injury can include:
If your tendon ruptures, you will usually experience sudden and severe pain, which may eventually settle into a continuous, dull ache or no pain at all. Movement in the affected area may also become more difficult or even impossible.
Read more about the symptoms of tendon injuries.
Minor tendon injuries can often be treated at home (see below). They will usually get better in a few weeks.
See your GP if your symptoms are severe or don't start to improve within a few weeks, or if you think you may have ruptured a tendon.
Your GP will usually be able to diagnose a tendon injury by asking about your symptoms and examining the affected area. Occasionally, they may request an X-ray, ultrasound scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to confirm the diagnosis.
If you think you have injured a tendon, stop doing the exercise or activity that caused your symptoms and rest the affected area initially. As your symptoms start to improve, you can gradually return to your normal activities.
Also, holding an ice pack or bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel to the affected area may help relieve your pain.
In some cases, surgery may be recommended to treat long-term injuries that have not improved following other treatments, or to repair a ruptured tendon.
Read more about treating tendon injuries.
You can help reduce your risk of tendon injuries by:
If your job involves repetitive movements, ask your employer to provide rest periods, devices to support your wrists, and help with your posture.